How to Start an Online Community From Scratch

Many community builders fail in the process of building an engaged online place that brings real value to its users. In today's post, we'll cover how to build a successful community from scratch.

Table of Contents

Regardless of your niche or industry, particular benefits of online communities exist in any type of community. Whether you’re looking to start an online community around a brand, a work team, or a group for a specific product or service, there are things that you’ll need to know from the beginning for it to be successful and valuable both for you and community members.

Why are communities adequate for organizations, entrepreneurs, founders, clients, and Internet users in general? What are the best strategies for building a thriving online community? Which are the best examples of online communities? How do I start an online community from scratch? That’s what we are going to address on this

How Do Online Communities Work?

An online community consists of a group of people who share common interests or goals. Members of an online community communicate via the Internet through various social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Discord, or Circle. These platforms allow users to quickly and effortlessly connect and develop a sense of community.

Communities are also often formed around shared hobbies. So if you have a particular interest or are in a niche industry, chances are there is an online community you can join!

In Unita, we believe there’s a community for everyone! Find the community you belong to in our directory of online and in-person communities.

Build Your Online Community Step by Step

A community can be an online space to share ideas, ask questions and get advice from like-minded people with whom you share interests. Also, they’re a great place to learn about events and activities that you might otherwise not have known.

In addition, online communities can help you reach your goals with less effort – both professional and personal, empower minorities and keep you healthy and happy.

#1: Create Your Buyer Personas

The first step in building an online community is to create your Buyer Persona. A buyer persona is a fictional representation of a typical customer for your product or service. Therefore, you can use this information to create content that appeals to these customers.

Also, defining your buyer persona will help you understand your potential clients or members’ needs or pain points and their expectations from your online community. Last but not least, finding your buyer persona consists of understanding who your model community member is!

Some questions that will help you define and understand your buyer persona are 👇

What are their needs and pains?

Which are their interests?

What emotions drive them toward solutions – or away from them?

How much do they know about your product or service?

#2: Define Which Type of Community You Need

There are different kinds of online groups. For example, if you’re seeking to educate your community members about a particular subject or niche, you’ll probably want to focus on learning how to start an online learning community.

These communities tend to provide their members access to seminars, webinars, and other learning events.

The Maker School 🚀

A place for no-code developers! You can join this Discord community for free. It’s a great group to learn from the experience of others and to find inspiration to build confidently. They also offer training to help you master the trendiest industry tools.

Membership-based communities usually require users to pay or subscribe to access certain features or content within the community. A great example of these types of communities is paid newsletters.

Plenty of communities started this way: as a paid newsletter community. Therefore, if you’re looking to learn how to start an online community, newsletters will help you reach different kinds of Internet users.

But to provide quality content to your subscribers, you’ll have to know who you’re talking to. That’s defining your target audience, or as we mentioned before, your buyer persona.

This includes knowing how frequently they get into their email accounts, their interests, and how they communicate. However, what’s most important is to decipher what their need or pain point is.

#3: Choose the Platform That Suits Your Needs

There are several platforms for building online communities, so choose the one that best suits your needs. You may have already chosen a platform as part of your marketing strategy. If not, there are a few things to consider when choosing an online platform: is it easy for people to join? What features does it offer?

If you want to build an online community for a remote working team, your best bet might be Slack or Discord. However, if you want to start a brand community. Or a niche-oriented community for a podcast or another specific product, we’ll recommend another platform with different features, such as Circle

#4: Set Rules

When starting an online community, it’s essential to set rules and guidelines, which should be perfectly known by moderators. A moderator is a community member that’s in charge of keeping the community a friendly and safe space for everyone.

However, depending on each platform – whether it’s Facebook, Discord, or Slack – group moderators will also have other tasks. But the essence of their role is always the same!

Therefore, moderators will need founders to set a clear and precise set of rules. And while the moderator will need to know them, members will also need to have them in mind!

Another good option is to set a code of conduct that will govern how members should behave while being part of the community. It’s important to have a code of conduct as it helps set expectations for what’s acceptable behavior in the community. Also, it helps define what actions are considered violations of those expectations.

#5: Build Community Culture

Building an online community takes time and patience as an online group is more than just a Facebook group or Internet forum. It’s an environment that fosters human connection and creates value for everyone involved.

To build community culture, start by making it a welcoming environment by encouraging people to be themselves and share freely. Make sure there are no boundaries or restrictions on what people can say or do.

This can be particularly difficult if your community is a brand or product community. As you’ll need to strike a balance between allowing people to express themselves freely and protecting your brand from negative comments.

Some great practices to build community culture are:

💡 Create a welcoming onboarding process to ensure new members know what to expect from your community.

✨ Offer networking activities & events aligned with your buyer personas’ pain interests and needs.

✍️ Share valuable content for your members.

🤗 Stay active & interact with members of your community.

💬 Facilitate channels for members to express their thoughts & feedback on your product or service.

#6: Promote Your Community

A fundamental step when learning how to start an online community is knowing how to promote it. This means, getting users to join. But how can you get people to join your group, server, or forum when you’re just getting started with community building?

One of the fundamental things to keep in mind is that your members are the best advocates for your community.

So apart from promoting your community on social media, adding it to server lists (if it’s a Discord server), and posting it on Unita’s directory, it’s essential to keep your members engaged. And this means building an emotional bond with them so that they recommend your server to their acquaintances.

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Communities

A successful online community attracts members who are passionate about a specific topic, engaged in the conversation, and willing to share their knowledge with others.

You can achieve these features through a variety of strategies. These include creating a strong and shared purpose, providing valuable content, and establishing clear rules and guidelines.

Establishing rules early on will help you ensure that everyone stays on track within the online community!

The Internet has plenty of platforms available for users to build their communities online, and each one has its own unique features. Tribe, Circle, Discord, Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter, among many others.

So if you’re just learning how to start an online community, the answer to the question ‘What’s the best platform for my community?’ might be: it depends on your needs.

When you’re first starting out, it’s wise to choose a platform that offers support features, such as forums and live chat. As well as additional tools like e-commerce or social media integration.

  1. Circle: If you’re looking for an easy-to-customizead-free, and distraction-free platform, choose Circle. With Circle, it’s also easy to monetize your community and it allows plenty of integrations🙌
  2. Facebook: On the other hand, there’s Facebook, a free social media platform where people are already at. This makes it easier for users to join your community!
  3. Discord: If you need a real-time chat with advanced permissions and moderation or unlimited message history, you should use Discord. Also, one of Discord’s greatest strengths is its audio and video feature 👩‍💻
  4. Discourse: But you might prefer Discourse if multiple community members are likely to have similar questions or problems and you want to point them to a library of common answers. Or if you want community-created content to be indexed (and thus discoverable in search engine results).
  5. Slack: Last but not least, if you’re looking to keep your remote working team connected or seeking a more corporate-centered platform, Slack is the perfect community platform for you!
Victoria Mortimer

Victoria Mortimer

I'm a journalist with a Social Communication degree, community manager, and content creator with over five years of experience. Now, I'm working as an independent writer passionate about community building, entrepreneurship, and social media.